Posted by: Sarah | May 1, 2011

A Brief Lesson In Norse Mythology


It’s been a while since writing a post – partly because I’ve been travelling and partly because I’ve been ill.  I had to pull out of the London Marathon two weeks before the race due to an injury (very upset) but have deferred my place to next year so happy about that.  Anyway, I’m feeling all inspired again and ready to start writing about our experiences in Norway again!

Yesterday Eliot and I had to change the tyres on our car.  It’s a sure sign that winter has finally left when the summer tyres need fitting – hurrah!  As we were waiting Eliot started reading the paper… a Norwegian paper…and he understood it!  He noticed a new film was out at the cinema called Thor about the Norse God of the same name.  It made me realise that I haven’t covered anything about the Viking Gods on this blog so figured it was time to write a brief intro to Viking religion.

The vikings existed between 800AD and 1100AD and were made up of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes.  They basically travelled far and wide to trade and invade.  Core to their belief system were tales of Norse mythology a higher world where giants and Gods fought each other.  Now I’m no expert in Norse mythology so I’m just going to introduce you to just a few of the Gods following a little research I did. 

There were two main races of gods:

  • The Aesir Gods:  These tended to be warrior gods. 
    • Odin:  He was the chief God of Aesir and worshiped greatly by vikings as one of the fiercest warriors.  He was often depicted as an old bearded man with one eye and a wide-brimmed hat.  He was considered the God of magic, often playing tricks on other Gods.
    • Thor:  He was one of Odin’s sons and was the God of Thunder.  Often depicted with a hammer in his hand it was said that whenever there was a thunderstorm, Thor would be riding through the sky on his chariot smashing his hammer to cause lightning. 
    • Tyr:  Another one of Odin’s sons but Tyr was the God of war, glory and single combat.  He was often sent to fight battles and in one battle had his hand bitten off by a wolf.  You will see this in pictures of Tyr. 
    • Heimdall:  He was the watchman and guardian of the Gods.  Apparently he had gold teeth and always carried a horn to warn the Aesir Gods of danger. 
    • Balder:  He was another son of Odin and was known to be the God of love, light, joy, peace and pretty much anything else positive.  Nothing could touch his saintly character, including Thor’s hammer, apart from mistletoe which apparently killed him

 

  • The Vanir Gods:  These were gods of nature and tended to be less warlike than the Aesir Gods
    • Freyr:  He was the God of weather, peace and male fertility.  He normally carried a sword and was responsible for bringing peace and pleasure to mortals but he had to give up the sword when he married a giantess. 
    • Freya:  She was the twin sister of Freyr and was known as the Goddess of love and beauty – like the Aphrodite of Norse mythology.  She wore a sacred necklace and the cat was her sacred symbol often seen in pictures of her

 

I’m not sure how much of this is still taught in Norwegian schools today.  I don’t remember learning anything about this at school, much to Eliot’s surprise, but then I don’t remember much about school at all!

Anyway, if you feel I’ve missed off an important Norse God please let me know in the Comments below!

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Responses

  1. Sorry to hear about your having to pull out of the marathon, blows to do the hard work it takes to get ready and then not get to have the fun part! Also, great post on the Norse mythology! More any time you want to do it please!

    • Thanks for the comment Jay. Yes, the thought of training in minus 9 degrees again just makes me shiver. Anyway, no running for the moment. I’m having a rest :-) Glad you liked the Norse mythology post. It was good fun researching it.

  2. Maybe Oslo Marathon can be a replacement for the London Marathon?

    http://en.oslomaraton.no/

    24. – 25. september!

    I did learn about the Norse mythology when I went to school some twenty years ago. I guess kids still learn about it in Norway.

    • Thanks for the link Stein. I did the Oslo half marathon last year and managed to get to the end. A couple of friends did the marathon. I honestly don’t know how they plucked up the courage to do the same route twice. I’ll keep it in mind though. I suppose I still have time to train!

  3. We learn about the mythology in school, but very early on – in elementary, if I remember correctly, so most of us forget a lot of it. There are a couple of things I would like to add, though:

    First of all, Odin was not only a war god. He was also the god of wisdom and knowledge. It is said that the reason he only had one eye was that he sacrificed his eye to be allowed to drink from Mimir, the well of wisdom, which gave him al the wisdom in the world. It is interesting because the depictions of him are so different, from a warrior to an old, wise man.

    There are also several “minor” Norse gods, and Norwegians frequently name children after the old Norse gods, just for the sake of tradition and because they like the names. My best friend Eira is named after the Norse godess Eir, who was godess of medicine and healing, for instance. But the god system was complicated, with several “levels” of gods, and it would take forever to learn about them all. There were some rather good children’s books about them if I remember correctly.

    • Brilliant – thank you Jenny. Great to have additional insights.


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